A background in mathematics, engineering and biology preceded Montessori’s study of medicine. Graduated from Rome University Medical School in 1896, she was appointed assistant doctor at the Rome University Psychiatric Clinic. The first woman M.D. in Italy, she studied philosophy and psychology. Made a professor in 1904, she occupied the chair of Anthropology at the University and occupied the Chair of Hygiene at the Magistero Femminile in Rome, one of the women's colleges in Italy.
Her work with retarded children reflected not only deep compassion, but also a rigorous scientific quality.
The Ministry of Education invited her to give a series of lectures at Rome University on the education of exceptional children. In these lectures, she set down the foundations of scientific pedagogy and was subsequently asked by the state to found and head a school for exceptional children.
She designed the special materials and scientifically–prepared environment she deemed essential for her pupils. Dr. Montessori succeeded brilliantly and received world acclaim. She believed she could apply her revolutionary ideas to the education of the normal child, and to this end, she embarked on a programme of intensive studies at Rome University.
In 1907, Dr. Montessori began her innovative method with a group of children in the slum area of San Lorenzo in Rome. In a year, her success with these children stimulated world–wide interest and became a major landmark in the education of young children.
Between 1912 and the end of her life, she put her ideas into twenty–five books and pamphlets on various aspects of her educational theory and practice. Of particular note are Dr. Montessori’s writings on Education for Peace that led to her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948. It was Dr. Montessori’s belief that if worldwide peace and harmony were ever to occur, we must start with the young child. One has only to observe a Montessori class of mixed religions and ethnic backgrounds all working and socializing in harmony to know this is true.
Dr. Montessori died in Holland in 1952 at the age of eighty–two, and was buried in Holland, her adopted country, whose love of freedom and concern for education she particularly valued.
Since 1907, Montessori Schools have been established in over fifty countries. Since her death, her works have achieved greater popularity than ever before, and the growth of Montessori schools in North America is reaching phenomenal proportions.